The Skeptical Visionary

A Seymour Sarason Education Reader

Edited by Robert L. Fried Seymour Sarason
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-980-7
Publication: Nov 02

HC: $91.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-979-1
Publication: Nov 02

312 pages
7 x 10

The first collection of writings by education's most important and critical voice

Read the Editor's Introduction and Chapter 1 (pdf).


Seymour Sarason, in the words of Carl Glickman, is "one of America's seminal thinkers about public education." For over four decades his has been a voice of much-needed skepticism about our plans for school reform, teacher training, and educational psychology. Now, for the first time, Sarason's essential writings on these and other issues are collected together, offering student and researcher alike with the range, depth, and originality of Sarason's contributions to American thinking on schooling.

As we go from debate to debate on issues such as school choice, charter schools, inclusive education, national standards, and other problems that seem to drag on without solution, Sarason's critical stance on the folly of many of our attempts to fix schools has always had at the center a concern for the main players in our educational institutions: the students, the teachers and the parents. Any plans that cannot account for their well-being are doomed to failure. And in the face of such failure, the clarity of Sarason's vision for real educational success is a much-needed antidote to much of the rhetoric that currently passes for substantial debate.

A wide-ranging and comprehensive selection of Sarason's most significant writings, The Skeptical Visionary should find a prized space on any student's or teacher's bookshelf.


"What does it take for the constituents of education—teachers, students, parents, administrators, and, above all, the culture of the school—to work together synergistically? To find out, read this distillation of Seymour Sarason's fifty years of reflections—always challenging, often wise." Howard Gardner, author of Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet

"Every time I'm getting too cocky, and think I've got 'the answer,' I read and reread Sarason. He pricks my conscience, but in such a delightful way that I go back for more. He goads me into thinking deeper, and being a bit more honest with myself. I find myself always wanting to argue back, wiggle out a bit, build a roadblock to his devastating logic. Of course, that's what Sarason's after—and it works. This collection puts together most of my favorites and it invites a new generation of readers to become skeptical idealists, in the best and most necessary sense of that phrase." Deborah Meier, author of The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

"The Skeptical Visionary is an indispensable guide to understanding one of the most thoughtful education thinkers of the 20th century—a must-read for practitioners and policymakers alike. Fried's introductory essay provides a concise and illuminating framework for viewing the work of Sarason. This work is an invaluable contribution to the literature of school reform." Tony Wagner, Co-Director, Change Leadership Group, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, and author of Making the Grade: Reinventing America's Schools

"Fried has judiciously selected 24 essays written over a 40-year period.... The approach provides both a coherence and a context for Sarason's wide-ranging intellect and results in a rich and deep appreciation of one of the most influential minds in modern psychology." Contemporary Psychology

Table of Contents

Editor's Note and Acknowledgments
Editor's Introduction: Seymour Sarason: Sculptor of Ideas

Part I: The Teacher
1. Powerlessness Unanticipated
2. You Know More Than You Think and More Than They Give You Credit For
3. Why Teachers Must Also Be Psychologists
4. Teaching as a Lonely Profession
5. Power Relationships in the Classroom
6. Constitutional Issues in the Classroom
7. The "Nonreading" Professional

Part II: The School
8. The School Culture and Processes of Change
9. Underestimating Complexity
10. Programmatic and Behavioral Regularities
11. Confronting Intractability
12. Conceptualizing the Educational System
13. Predictable Features and Problems in the Creation of Charter Schools and Other New Organizational Settings

Part III: Students and Parents
14. Themes from Childhood and Adolescence
15. Columbine High School and Contexts of Productive Learning
16. An Overarching Goal for Students
17. Students as Teachers
18. Parental Involvement and Power Struggles: Applying the Political Principle to Relationships Within the School and Beyond
19. The Governors: Teachers and Parents

Part IV: The Political and Policy Agenda
20. The Non-Learning, Non-Self-Correcting System
21. Are Schools Unique Organizations?
22. Our Expectations of Political Leaders
23. America's Only Serious Education President
24. What Should We Do?

Part V: Tables of Contents from Sarason's Books on Education
Educational Reform: A Self-Scrutinizing Memoir
Questions You Should Ask About Charter Schools and Vouchers
American Psychology and Schools
Teaching as a Performing Art
Charter Schools: Another Flawed Educational Reform?
Crossing Boundaries: Collaboration, Coordination, and the Redefinition of Resources
Political Leadership and Educational Failure
How Schools Might Be Governed and Why
Barometers of Change: Individual, Educational, and Social Transformation
Revisiting "The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change"
Parental Involvement and the Political Principle
School Change: The Personal Development of a Point of View
Psychoanalysis, General Custer and the Verdicts of History and Other Essays on Psychology in the Social Scene
Letters to a Serious Education President
You Are Thinking of Teaching? Opportunities, Problems, Realities
The Care for Change: Rethinking the Preparation of Educators
The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform
The Challenge of Art to Psychology
The Making of an American Psychologist: An Autobiography
Schooling in America: Scapegoat and Salvation
Educational Handicap, Public Policy, and Social History: A Broadened Perspective on Mental Retardation
Work, Aging, and Social Change: Professionals and the One Life-One Career Imperative
The Creation of Settings and the Future Societies
The Culture o f the School and the Problem of Change
The Psycho-Educational Clinic: Papers and Research Studies
The Preparation of Teachers: A n Unstudied Problem in Education
Anxiety in Elementary School Children: A Report of Research

About the Author(s)

Robert Fried is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Northeastern University, and is the author of The Passionate Teacher: A Practical Guide and The Passionate Learner: How Teachers and Parents Can Help Children Reclaim the Joy of Discovery.

Seymour Sarason is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. He is the author of over forty books and is considered to be one of the most significant researchers in education and educational psychology in the country.